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How one Ontario town is luring young doctors — and keeping them there

As municipalities across Ontario struggle to convince doctors to hang out their shingles, one town has managed to lure young physicians through a concerted community effort, and even the promise of love.

Goderich, Ont., population 8K, had just 5 doctors — it now has 28

Gwen Gevereaux, a physicians recruiter in Goderich, hosted a weekend retreat for resident doctors to showcase the town. (CBC)

As municipalities across Ontario struggle to convince doctors to hang out their shingles, one town has managed to lure young physicians through a concerted community effort, and even the promise of love.

Gwen Devereaux, a recruiter at the Alexandra and Marine General Hospital in Goderich, Ont., said the town on Lake Huron now has 28 doctors, up from just five not long ago.

Devereaux said she worked with elected officials at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, as well as local businesses, to attract young doctors to the town of about 8,000.

"It pretty much became a project for the entire town," she said.

Devereaux said many of the physicians she contacted had never heard of Goderich — including some who spent six years attending medical school in London, Ont., just 100 kilometres down the road.

Gwen Devereaux, a former nurse, now recruits physicians to the town of Goderich, Ont. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Playing matchmaker

Devereaux organized and hosted weekend retreats for potential recruits and their families to get to know the town and its charms.

She admitted it's often difficult to lure young professionals away from their urban settings.

"They can be entrenched in spousal employment, good jobs, they have children that are in schools, and it's more difficult to bring them out here," she said. 

To help sweeten the deal, the town raised $6 million to build a YMCA with an indoor pool, and has renovated the local library. Goderich has also established a medical research centre to keep doctors close to home.

Devereaux even played matchmaker, introducing a single doctor to a local woman. The couple eventually married. 

"It was the perfect match," Devereaux said.

It also ensured that doctor will stay put, she said.

"Because it's about retention, and it's about looking forward at our physicians that are retiring." 

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